Tupapa Maraerenga have secured their place in the OFC Champions League 2018 Group Stage with two wins from two matches, and the race is now on to find out who will join them.
After a resounding 13-1 victory over hosts Pago Youth on Match Day 2, the most likely contender is Lupe Ole Soaga of Samoa. However, Tonga club champions Veitongo are also in with a chance if they can secure a win against Lupe and leapfrog them in the standings.
The challenge is for Veitongo to overcome.
The side were well beaten 9-2 by Tupapa on Tuesday, and also found themselves finishing the match with just nine players after striker Soakai Vea in the first half, and captain Sioni Uhatahi late in the second, received red cards.
“Our final game against Lupe Ole Soaga will be a bit difficult because we lose Sione Uhtahi the team captain and Soakai. The red cards really did not help overall,” Veitongo coach Timote Moleni said.
Although Lupe are on the right track, bouncing back in record style after losing their opening encounter, coach Paul Ualesi remains wary of the threat Veitongo poses.
“We have to prepare for our game against our brothers from Tonga because like I’ve said before, all the teams are here to win,” he said.
“We are trying to prepare and work hard on our weaknesses for the final game to qualify for the second stage.
“Veitongo is experienced, one of the good teams.”
In the final match of the OFC Champions League 2018 Qualifier, Tupapa Maraerenga are out to make it a clean sweep, while Pago Youth are hoping they can turn their own fortunes around.
The Cook Islands club champions made short work of Veitongo on Match Day 2 putting on a structured, determined performance which saw them bag nine goals.
What they’ll be out to work on is their defensive approach after conceding two penalties, which is not something coach Alex Napa wants to see repeated.
“I don’t see any big changes in the way the match will be played,” he said.
“I think I’m going to insist my players – from the opening whistle to the closing one – need to be on top of our game. It’s the little things that are starting to effect the game plan.”
For Pago Youth, to have one again been on the receiving end of a hefty defeat was not a pleasant experience, and one coach Li’atama Amisone Jnr. doesn’t want to see repeated tomorrow.
“We did not keep our composure and stick to the game plan,” he said.
“I will watch the film and identify how Cook Islands attack and whatever weaknesses they have so we can exploit them.”
Lupe Ole Soaga [SAM] vs. Veitongo [VEI]
Pago Park Soccer Stadium
Pago Pago, American Samoa
Friday 26 January
Kick-off: 12h00 (local)
Referee: Ben AUKWAI (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Avinesh NARAYAN (FIJ)
Assistant Referee 2: Hayden TUTBURY (NZL)
Fourth Official: Peter LINNEY (NZL)
Lupe Ole Soaga [SAM]
Vital Statistics: Suivai Ataga scored five goals in one match to take him to the top of the goal scoring charts.
The Players: Faalavelave Matagi has proven himself as the kind of goalkeeper you’d like to have on your side. He makes some crucial saves and although the occasional shot slips past, overall is a very safe pair of hands.
Coach Quote: “This is not finished. We’re not really mindful of their loss, but focused on our preparations.”
Team List: 1. Faalavelave MATAGI (GK), 2. Vaalii FAALOGO 3. Spencer KELI, 4. Vito LALOATA, 5. Tauati TANOAI, 6. Michael FIFI’I, 7. Lawrie LETUTUSA, 8. Darren ALATINA TALILAI, 9. Samuelu MALO, 10. Lapalapa TONI, 11. Suivai ATAGA, 12. Kareti SOAFA, 14. Albert BELL, 15. Faafua ATAGA, 16. Andrew SETEFANO, 17. Ken KEREWI, 18. Bird VAGAIA, 19. Cihan ERBIL, 20. Luki GOSCHE, 21. Kevin AH KUOI, 22. Eti FATU (GK), 23. Johnwesley TEO
Suspended: 13. Vaa TAUALAI
Coach: Paul Ualesi (SAM)
Vital Statistics: The most goals Veitongo has scored in an OFC Champions League Qualifier is 4. They currently need one more to equal that record.
The Players: Vai Lutu showed his talents as a player able to make a well-timed run, able to apply pressure in the final third and able to create something from nothing. His one downfall is his finishing needs to be on-target more often, but at just 18 years old he has time to continue crafting his talent.
Coach Quote: “There were moments when the team played well but a major issue is a lack of ability to finish in front of goal which did have an impact on the last match.”
Team List: 1. Semisi OTUKOLO (GK), 3. Ilalio LEAKONA, 4. Oliveti VAI, 5. Fine MOALA, 8. Laaina TUALAU, 9. Tuia FALEPAPALANGI, 10. Viliami TUKIA, 11. Tupou UHATAHI, 12. Viliami TONGAMANA, 13. Ofa KITE, 14. Suliasi LAUHOUA, 15. Sione TUIFANGALOKA, 16. Kilifi FAUPULA, 18. Tevita TUKIMAKA, 19. Vai LUTU, 21. Siane FAUPULA (GK)
Suspended: 2. Sione UHATAHI, 17. Soakai VEA
Coach: Timote MOLENI (TGA)
Pago Youth SC [ASA] vs. Tupapa Maraerenga [COK]
Pago Park Soccer Stadium
Pago Pago, American Samoa
Friday 26 January
Kick-off: 15h00 (local)
Referee: David YAREBOINEN (SOL)
Assistant Referee 1: Denson SALE (VAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Aswin RAJ (FIJ)
Fourth Official: Veer SINGH (FIJ)
Pago Youth FC
Vital Statistics: The 13-1 loss to Lupe Ole Soaga is the biggest margin in a qualifier, beating the previous record also held by Pago Youth who lost to Tupapa Maraerenga 11-1 in 2013.
The Players: Joe Koroiadi has been a hidden talent for Pago Youth. He can break down a defensive line well, but also gets back to defend when required.
Coach Quote: “Everyone makes mistakes and learns from them.”
Team List: 1. Moimoi TUALAULELEI (GK), 2. Poyer SAMUELU (GK), 3. Rambo TAPUI, 4. Gabriel TAUMUA, 5. Elama FA’ATONU, 6. Eugene LEDOUX, 7. Fiatele NIUOKA, 8. Ueli TUALAULELEI, 9. Paul COLLINS, 10. Ryan SAMUELU, 11. Nissan SILAO, 12. Ruben LUVU JNR. 13, Harvey MANU, 14.Joe KOROIADI, 15. Tommy AMISONE, 16. Roy LEDOUX, 17. Pete PETERS, 18. Dustin MAIAVA, 19. Ricky FAAMOANA, 20. Tafiga FAIMALU
Coach: Li’atama AMISONE JNR. (ASA)
Vital Statistics: It is the first time Tupapa Maraerenga will qualify for the OFC Champions League Group Stage through the Qualifier.
The Players: Samuel Maoate-Cox is a flexible player, comfortable defending and able to make crucial tackles, but also confident on attack and able to make ground quickly, especially when it’s on the counter.
Coach Quote: “We hope we can put a decent team in for the last game and make a good job of it at the last hurdle.”
Team List: 1. Sacha NATHU (GK), 2. Mii JOSEPH, 3. Sean LATIMER, 4. Teina SAVAGE, 5. Roimata KARIKA, 6. Samuel MAOATE-COX, 7. Campbell BEST, 8. Lee HARMON, 9. Geoffrey STRICKLAND, 10. Grover HARMON, 11. Maro BONSU-MARO, 12. Willyn KARIKA, 13. Pachok ABBA, 14. Edward BROGAN, 15. Pekay EDWARDS, 16. Hone FOWLER, 17. Tyrell BARRINGER-TAHIRI, 20. Manaariki PIERRE (GK)
Coach: Alexander NAPA [COK]